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UNHCR monitors returns to North Kivu from Uganda, prepares to help returnees

News Stories, 1 November 2013

© UNHCR/L.Beck
Congolese refugees cross the border into Uganda at Bunagana today. Numbers of new arrivals have started falling.

BUNAGANA, Uganda, November 1 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency continues to respond to the latest inflows of Congolese refugees to southern Uganda as it prepares to assist people to return home in areas liberated from rebel control across the border in Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) North Kivu province.

More than 10,000 people fled to Uganda's Kisoro district after the latest wave of fighting between the DRC armed forces and the M23 rebel movement began on October 25, more than 18 months after the two sides first started fighting.

The government has enjoyed spectacular success, ousting the M23 from strongholds in North Kivu, including the Bunagana crossing with Uganda, across which the refugees flowed. UNHCR has transported more than 3,000 to the Nyakabande Transit Centre, about 20 kilometres from the border, where they receive shelter, food and other aid.

Several thousand more remained in the border area and UNHCR has seen many return to North Kivu since the army captured the town on Wednesday afternoon. On Friday, the border was much calmer although there were some arrivals from Lunyonyi, where sporadic fighting continues.

A number of people returned to DRC this morning after crossing to Uganda on Thursday to spend the night. If the situation in Bunagana and elsewhere in North Kivu continues to stabilize in coming days, UNHCR expects most people to return.

UNHCR staff in the North Kivu capital, Goma, have not been able to access liberated areas yet, but the apparent collapse of the M23 offers hope that the refugee agency will soon be able to directly reach people in areas that have been off limits since the M23 took up arms against the Congolese military in April last year for allegedly failing to implement the terms of an earlier peace accord.

Once full military control and civilian authority is established, the repatriation of tens of thousands of forcibly displaced people could become a reality after more than 18 months of stop-start heavy combat in North Kivu.

While expressing caution about the current situation, and an eventual return from other countries, UNHCR Regional Representative Stefano Severe, said: "UNHCR is indeed ready to receive and accompany returnees once the situation has stabilized."

He and other UNHCR staff warned against premature returns until the situation is safe.

Severe said UNHCR had set up a small task force to address the immediate situation and today in Goma, UNHCR staff were meeting with UN and other partners to discuss how to deal with the new developments and help people of concern as quickly as possible.

Moreover, UNHCR works with implementing partners who ensure that the organization has a network and a presence in the deep field. But UNHCR believes that a political solution will be vital for significant returns and that any major population movement back must be voluntary in nature, and that the displaced can return in safety and dignity.

Assessment missions will be essential and humanitarian aid organizations such as UNHCR will need assurances of unhindered and free access to areas where people need UNHCR protection and assistance. This will require the presence of a disciplined military.

But in a province where there are believed to still be more than 30 armed groups, much remains to be done to bring lasting peace and solutions to eastern DRC.

Meanwhile, Uganda is also responding to a second displacement crisis in the north-west last month that saw up to 4,000 people flee from DRC's Orientale province to the Koboko district to escape attacks by a little known group called M18. Earlier this year, tens of thousands had fled from North Kivu to Uganda's Bundibugyo district to escape attacks from a Ugandan rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces.




A Time Between: Moving on from Internal Displacement in Uganda

This document examines the situation of IDPs in Acholiland in northern Uganda, through the stories of individuals who have lived through conflict and displacement.

Uganda: Sudanese Refugees Flee Rebel Attacks

On August 5, 2002, some 24,000 Sudanese refugees fled their homes in Achol-Pii camp in northern Uganda after a bloody attack by the Lord's Liberation Army rebel group. More than 60 refugees and many local villagers were killed in the attack.

Fearing further violence, displaced refugees trekked overnight to Lira, from where UNHCR trucked them to Kiryondongo, 100 km to the south-west. Kiryondongo site, a settlement already hosting 13,000 refugees, was temporarily extended to accommodate the Achol-Pii survivors until another site could be prepared.

Arriving families were initially accommodated at an expanded reception centre at Kiryondongo. After being registered, the new arrivals received UNHCR plastic sheeting, an emergency food ration and a 20 x 15-metre plot per family to build their own temporary shelter. UNHCR also distributed blankets and jerry cans. Additional latrines were also dug, new water pumps installed and a new emergency clinic was set up.

Uganda: Sudanese Refugees Flee Rebel Attacks

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Since 2006, renewed conflict and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes – the country's worst displacement crisis since the formal end of the civil war in 2003. In total, there are now some 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

Hope for the future was raised in January 2008 when the DRC government and rival armed factions signed a peace accord. But the situation remains tense in North Kivu and tens of thousands of people still need help. UNHCR has opened sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) and distributed assistance such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, firewood and other items to the four camps in the region. Relief items have also been delivered to some of the makeshift sites that have sprung up.

UNHCR staff have been engaged in protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs and other populations at risk across North Kivu.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Posted on 28 May 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

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